The books and movies may be ancient history, but for the most passionate of Potterheads, the magic is still very much alive and well. Personally, I still remember the goosebumps and excitement I felt when a new hardcover was published or a new play was released in the theater. Today, I feel just as giddy when I travel to a location used in the movies or artfully described by J.K. Rowling in the novels. While there are hundreds of Harry Potter locations across the UK that are worth visiting, these are the ones that are most accessible to visitors and are sure to resonate strongly.
Oxford University, England
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Various colleges of Oxford University are now eternally linked to Harry Potter, whether because actual filming took place there or because J.K. Rowling was inspired by them in some way.
Christ Church College is indisputably the most famous one, as this is where the famous Hogwarts Great Hall is. The massive staircase, with the intricate Gothic ceiling, were used in several movies as the stairway leading into the atmospheric great hall where pupils had their meals. The atmosphere is remarkably similar to that in the films, aside from the floating candles and ghosts, of course.
Another noteworthy Harry Potter locations in Oxford: the Bodleian Library. This was used as the Divinity Hall in The Philosopher’s Stone and later on as the infirmary.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, England
This is pretty much the Mecca for Potterheads. This is where fans can step inside the studios where most of the movies were filmed, learn all about the amazing special effects, marvel at Horcruxes, costumes and props, get surprising behind-the-scenes fun facts, and even have a Butterbeer. The possibilities are endless: stroll down Diagon Alley, visit Godric’s Hollow, board the Hogwart’s Express…
The studios are located on the outskirts of London. They are easily accessible by public transport. Getting in is a little pricey at £51, but well worth every penny spent. Throughout the visit it’s clear that the crew, cast and those responsible for bringing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to life are as enthusiastic about the story as the fans.
I stayed for about four hours in total, but I would recommend a full day for the hardcore fans, as I had to rush through the last hour to catch my pre-booked transportation back into the city, a decision I now regret. For Harry Potter locations there is simply never enough time!
Lacock Abbey, England
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”— Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Lacock is not only one of the most picturesque and charming villages in England. It was also used for several scenes in the series. There are three main locations that take place in Lacock: James and Lily Potter’s house on Church Street, Horace Slughorn’s house on Cantax Hill, as well as several of the Hogwarts classrooms and the cloisters over at the historic Lacock Abbey.
Kings Cross Station, England
Before you head on to Scotland to complete this Harry Potter pilgrimage of sorts, you should plan to take a tour of King’s Cross Station. On platform 9 3/4, fans will be able to get their pictures taken. There is also a souvenir shop right next to the station with a wide range of Harry Potter memorabilia on sale.
Elephant House Café, Scotland
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”— Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
It was in the back room of this seemingly unremarkable Edinburgh coffee shop that J.K. Rowling brought the magic to life. She spent several days writing the world of Harry Potter while sipping tea and taking in the view of Edinburgh Castle. Now, with fans from all over the world jotting down thoughts and solemnly swearing they are up to no good, the bathrooms have become a Harry Potter shrine of sorts.
Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
For the ultimate Harry Potter experience in Scotland, book a ticket aboard the Hogwarts Express! Departing from Fort Williams and travelling through the Highlands to Mallaig, the steam Jacobite train crossed the dizzying Glenfinnan Viaduct so memorably immortalised in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Although I suggest booking the full train ride as the scenery is quite spectacular, it’s entirely possible to alight at Glenfinnan Station and complete a short hike in the mountains to see the viaduct up close.
Additional Harry Potter locations in the UK:
- Piccaddilly Circus, England
- Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
- High Commission of Australia, England
- Millennium Bridge, England
- Goathland railway station, Yorkshire
- Durham Cathedral, Durham
Cover photo credit: Marie-Eve Vallières